Time is a Stealer
There are some who have too much time on their hands and others who seem to never have enough time. But some things are certain, one is that time is the most precious thing we have; it doesn’t stand still for anyone and one day we will have to give an accounting of what we did with the limited time afforded to us during this journey called life. Each moment will be a witness on Judgement Day, will the preponderance of time be your advocate, or will millions of moments and seconds prosecute you to pieces until the you you thought you were is shamed and demolished?
Friends, I’m not here to “clean your clocks” but rather just to caution you to heed them more cautiously and constructively.
This week’s Torah reading Ki Tisa teaches us an important lesson about time. We read about the sin of the golden calf and can’t help but wonder what kind of people could build it or its like? Our own immediate grandstanding reaction is, “I wouldn’t have participated.” Even the most non-religious Jew amongst us today wouldn’t build a golden idol. Yet, the rabbis teach us that the Israelites who committed this sin were not “derelicts” but were righteous people; not only were they righteous but they had reached the level of Adam prior to sinning. Yet, in an Olympian dive, they plummeted from their highest level to their lowest point in history. How long did it take them? I’ll take God’s word for it: He tells Moses, “They have speedily left the path I commanded them.”
Many years ago, a book came out entitled Guard Your Tongue, but more aptly for our age would be a book called Guard Your Time, for it is the mismanagement of precious moments where sins are born and potential dies. And it is in our age of too much information and distractions that we must be ever more vigilant. How often do we peek in for a second, out of curiosity, on a Netflix series and end up staying awake until 3am? The night is ruined. The next day is ruined. That opportunity to study Torah and to better spend our time is gone forever. Every moment counts!
A brilliant young Torah sage was once asked when he had the time to become so smart seeing that he was so young. He replied that everything that he knew he had learned in five minutes.
“But you are so smart,” people said. “How could it be that you learned everything in five minutes?”
To which he replied, “Every time that I had five minutes, I learned something.”
In today’s times, unfortunately, we don’t see the cumulative magic of minutes. We think that the only thing five minutes can produce is minute rice. The fact is if we did indeed appreciate minutes, would the average American spend almost 22 hours a week watching TV and 1132 hours a year? Would people spend an average 1,300 hours a year on social media? Are we not all guilty, even the very religious, of taking God’s precious time and wasting it, of building some sort of wasteful “calf” instead of engaging in tikkun olam—fixing the world.
In our minds we justify why we are killing an hour not realizing that the hour is really killing us. If we don’t want the evil inclination to defeat the years of our lives, then we must triumph over the moments of our lives. By allowing just a few moments to go unguarded, never mind hours and days, we give satan—and trouble—the opportunity to seize the helm as we learn from the sin of the golden calf. Remember, as well, that the Angel of Death was only able to take King David’s soul by distracting him from Torah study for a few moments.
Friends, single moments can make you or break you just as missing another airplane by a minute can make all the difference. It thus becomes a simple case of mathematics: What do you want to add up to? Do you want to fill your days with good deeds, Torah and kindness, or to be sucked into the time-free-yenta-zone of social networks, tweets, TV, too much shopping and other distractions that can propel us to speedily leave the path that God has shown us. The average person lives just over 40 million minutes in a lifetime. What is your mitzvah-to-minute ratio so far? The average person lives 27 thousand days. How are you spending your days?
Upon the death of a great sage people came to question one of his disciples and asked him what was most important to their teacher. The disciple responded, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the moment.” May we, too, all be committed to dedicating our very best to the minutes of our life so that when they add up to hours, days, and years we will have something to show for them.
Some say time is a healer, but I say time is a stealer; it will take and steal the best of you if you don’t commit to giving it your best. It’s time to put up a sign on our lives which reads “No loitering!” And as Rabbi Hillel wisely asked, “If not now [my friends], then when?